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Will the Climate Change Act impact your car choice in the future?

With an election in the offing, Dr Stephen Ladyman (ex-minister of Transport)of Clearview Traffic writes that we can be sure that the mainstream political parties will be vying to demonstrate their 'Green' credentials in the coming months.

In fact, there has been a reasonable level of agreement on the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions among the parties for several years – which is why the UK Climate Change Act got all-party support in 2008.

The Act set national emissions reduction target of 80%, relative to a 1990 baseline and a 26% target for reducing CO2 emissions by 2020 and commits the Government of the day to publish five yearly carbon budgets and report annually to Parliament on progress.

The Climate Change Act (Scotland) 2008 is even stricter in the short term, with a 42% target for 2020.

Which means that the need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions has the force of law and is supported by all the main parties – so it is not likely to be repealed anytime soon: this impacts on the whole of the UK, and has both short term and long term milestones that have to be met.

All sectors of UK life will have to contribute to these reductions, and transport will have a big role to play.

Currently, transport contributes 35% of all CO2 emissions and although some progress has been made reducing the total since the level it was at in 2008 when the Act was passed, emissions from the sector are still broadly similar (down just 2%) to the 1990 baseline level.

In other words, there is a long way to go in just 5 years to hit the 26% target, and even further to hit Scotland's 42% figure.

It is hard to overstate the impact that meeting these targets will have on road transport.

Cars produce 12% of the total EU CO2 emissions which is why Sir David King, the Government's 'climate change tsar' says that by 2050 every road vehicle will need to be powered from the grid.

This can't happen by 2020, but some serious changes to the carbon footprint of road vehicles will have to occur.

Although carbon reduction targets may not have the force of law in other countries they are taken seriously across Europe and are backed up by EU legislation, which will have serious penalties for car-makers if they don't achieve a fleet average carbon footprint of 95gm of CO2 per Km by 2021.

This diagram below is based on the SMMT New Car CO2 report for 2014 demonstrates how tough this will be:

February 19th

This premium amounts to £5 for the first g/km of exceedance, £15 for the second g/km, £25 for the third g/km, and £95 for each subsequent g/km. From 2019, the cost will be £95 from the first gram of exceedance onwards. If the average CO2 emissions of a manufacturer’s fleet exceed its limit value in any year in the run up to 2020 the manufacturer has to pay an excess emissions premium for each car registered.

Only the fleet average is regulated, so manufacturers are still able to make vehicles with emissions above the limit value curve – provided these are balanced by vehicles below the curve.

But that means the bulk of vehicles are going to have to have a carbon footprint below 95g/km to ensure the fleet average does not exceed the target and as the diagram below shows, there are not many vehicles that meet that target today.

February 19th2
So, if you are responsible for traffic management and road planning, what does all this mean to you?

You'll need charging points, electric charging lanes, and a strategy for managing the way people use charging points to make sure that only electric vehicles park by them and that they are charging while they do. We'll suggest some ideas for this in a laterblog. Firstly, get ready for the invasion of the electric vehicle, as there will have to be a lot more ultra-low carbon vehicles on the roads by 2020/1.

Secondly, reducing the carbon footprint from road transport is not just the responsibility of car-makers.

In another blog to follow shortly, Dr Ladyman will explain why and demonstrate the importance of congestion management and speed enforcement in the fight against climate change.

Thirdly, to make the changes that will be necessary, you have to keep the public onside and win the support of politicians.

Go too quickly without showing the public why sustainable strategies are also practical strategies, and you'll quickly hit a roadblock.

To find out more about how Clearview Traffic are helping to transform road networks in the UK, please get in touch here.

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